- This article is about the episode. For the military organization, see Southern Raiders.
|"You need to face this man. But when you do, please don't choose revenge. Let your anger out, and then let it go. Forgive him."|
|— Aang advising Katara.|
The Avatar and his friends are forced on the run again after Azula finds them at the Western Air Temple. Zuko confronts Katara about her distrustful disposition toward him and thinks of a way to gain her friendship. He decides to help Katara find the Fire Nation soldier responsible for killing her mother. Together they find the man, however, Katara is unable to exact her revenge on him. After returning, she finally forgives Zuko and accepts him into the group.
Aang and his friends, including the newly joined Suki, Hakoda, and Chit Sang, are sleeping in the Western Air Temple. The sun rises and Aang awakens in time to see a bomb being launched their way. He deflects it using airbending and it explodes harmlessly in the air, causing the others to awaken. Several Fire Nation airships, led by Princess Azula, rise out of the mist below and begin barraging the temple with more bombs.
Aang airbends the large temple doors closed to protect the others, and Zuko pushes Katara out of the path of falling rocks, landing on top of her in the process; instead of thanking him, she angrily demands that he get off of her. Toph and Haru earthbend a tunnel into the wall so that everyone can escape safely as Aang notices Zuko looking out at the airships. Zuko tells Aang that he will hold them off and runs toward the ships only to find Azula riding atop one, waiting for him. She informs Zuko that she is there to celebrate her "becoming an only child" and nearly blasts him off the temple with firebending. Zuko attempts to use a crumbling pillar to try and jump onto her airship, but misses, hitting the side of the ship and falling into the misty abyss below.
Appa refuses to enter the tunnel with the others as the temple continues to be bombarded. Despite Katara's initial refusal to the idea, it is decided that they need to split up; Sokka, Aang, Katara, Toph, Suki, Zuko, Appa, and Momo will fly away from the temple while everybody else escapes through the tunnel. Toph earthbends a shield to protect them from incoming bombs.
As they fly away, they see Zuko rising out of the mist on another airship. He jumps onto Azula's ship and they begin to battle. Aang and the others barely manage to evade attacks by Fire Nation soldiers on the other airships. Zuko and Azula seem evenly matched, but their close range firebending causes a large explosion that blasts them both off the ship. Aang guides Appa downward and Katara pulls Zuko into the saddle, thus saving him. Azula, on the other hand, uses her firebending to propel herself toward the cliffside, and slides to a stop using her hairpin.
The team camps out near an uninhabited beach where Aang comments to everyone how it feels just like old times again. Zuko cracks a joke about how he could chase Aang around and try to capture him if he really wants it to feel like old times, to which everyone laughs except Katara. Sokka proposes a toast to Zuko for saving them from Azula, and everyone except Katara cheers. Thankful, Zuko says he does not deserve this treatment to which Katara agrees and angrily storms off to the beach. Zuko follows her, wondering what her reasons are for her cold reception toward him.
Zuko tries to talk to her, saying it is not fair she does not trust him, when everyone else does. Katara yells at him, saying that she was the first one to trust him in Ba Sing Se, but he betrayed her trust. Zuko asks what he can do to make it up to her; she angrily tells him either to reconquer Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King or bring her mother back. She walks off to her tent, leaving Zuko alone.
Sokka is in his tent, which has been lavishly decorated with candles and roses, expecting Suki to visit him for a romantic night. However, he is embarrassed to see Zuko enter instead. Zuko asks Sokka to tell him about the death of his mother, as he thinks Katara might be taking her anger over the loss of her mother out on him. Sokka informs Zuko that the Fire Nation attacked their village six years prior, when Katara was eight and he was nine. Although the attack was short and the invaders soon retreated, once it was over, they discovered that their mother had been killed. Zuko asks Sokka if he can identify any specific details about the soldiers who raided their village to which the latter replies, describing the lead ship as hoisting flags bearing sea ravens, which Zuko recognizes as the symbol of the Southern Raiders. He thanks Sokka, only to be pushed impatiently out of the tent. After rubbing his hands together eagerly, Sokka peeks outside and beckons Suki to come in, only to find that Zuko had only taken a few steps away from his tent.
Zuko waits all night outside Katara's tent; when she comes out, she irritatedly asks him what he wants. He tells her that he knows who killed her mother and can help her find him. When both of them approach Aang to borrow Appa, the Avatar sarcastically asks if it is Katara's turn to "take a little field-trip with Zuko", to which Katara starkly answers yes. When she tells him her intentions, Aang tries to dissuade her from going, saying revenge is never the answer and comparing her to Jet. Katara refuses to listen and points out that Jet had attacked innocent people. When Sokka agrees with Aang, Katara claims that he did not love their mother like her. Aang tells Katara a metaphor told to him by monks, comparing revenge to a two headed snake and tries to convince Katara to choose forgiveness rather than vengeance, only for her to say that forgiveness for the man who killed her mother is an impossibility.
Later that night, Katara and Zuko prepare to take Appa without Aang's consent, however, Aang catches them in the act and confronts them. Ultimately, Aang allows them to take Appa, believing it is a journey Katara needs to take, but he pleads with her to choose forgiveness rather than revenge. Katara thanks him for understanding and they depart. Sokka compliments Aang for his wisdom, before comically asking him if he can borrow Momo for a week, for no apparent reason.
Katara and Zuko journey on Appa to a guiding outpost that serves as a coordination station for the entire Fire Navy. They infiltrate the base and find their way to a room that contains the information they need; Katara sends the single guard present away by waterbending ink onto her. Once the guard leaves, they discover that the Southern Raiders are currently stationed at Whaletail Island. On the way there, Katara recalls her personal experiences when she lost her mother. Upon spotting the black snowfall, the eight-year-old Katara went to look for her mother, Kya, at their home and found her being questioned by a Fire Nation soldier. She is told by her mother to go outside and find her father. The Fire Nation soldier glares at Katara, yelling at her to get out. Her mother comforts her, telling her everything will be all right. Katara runs out to get Hakoda, but by the time they return, the Fire Nation soldier has disappeared and Kya has been killed. Zuko comments that Kya was a very brave woman; Katara holds her mother's necklace and agrees.
Later, Zuko spots the Southern Raiders' ship. In a swift, strong, and powerful display of waterbending enhanced by the full moon, Katara sends most of the crew overboard with a massive wave. The two proceed to the main control room to capture the ship's captain, whom Katara quickly subdues with bloodbending so Zuko can properly interrogate him. After realizing by appearance that he is not the man who killed her mother, Zuko interrogates the captain and the two learn that the raiders' last commanding officer, Yon Rha, retired four years earlier and is living with his ill-tempered mother.
Yon Rha is sent by his grumpy mother to get fresh tomato-carrots from the marketplace. On his way back from the market, it begins to rain and he has a sense he is being stalked. Certain that he is being followed, Yon Rha swivels around and shoots a blast of fire at a nearby tree, resulting in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the suspects. He continues on his way only to be ambushed and subdued by Zuko. Katara approaches and threatens him, demanding he recognize her face; after a slight contemplation of the young waterbender, Yon Rha suddenly realizes her identity and recalls the events of that fateful day.
A source had told him of the existence of one waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe, prompting the commander of the unit to commence on an expedition to eliminate the remaining bender. Wishing to save her daughter, Kya lied to Yon Rha by claiming herself to be the last waterbender. Upon hearing this and accepting her claim, instead of taking her prisoner, he chose to outright kill her. Enraged, Katara reveals that she, not Kya, was the last Southern waterbender, proving this statement by bending the droplets of rain and forming them into icicles which she proceeds to launch at Yon Rha. However, she stops the assault at the last second and releases her control over the icicles, which turn to water. Terrified, Yon Rha pleads for his life, even offering his own mother to even the situation. Katara tells him she always wondered what kind of man could do such a terrible thing, but understands now that she sees him. She proceeds to hatefully call him a weak, pathetic, and empty human being, whom she cannot bring herself to kill for revenge. Katara and Zuko depart, leaving Yon Rha sobbing in the rain.
Later, Katara waits on a dock on Ember Island for the rest of the group to arrive on Appa. Aang approaches, telling Katara he is proud of her for choosing the right thing by forgiving. Katara explains that while she can never forgive Yon Rha for what he did, she is willing to forgive Zuko, and they share a hug before she leaves for the camp. Zuko tells Aang that he was right about what Katara needed, and Aang reaffirms that violence is never the answer. Zuko turns to the Avatar and asks what he is going to do when he faces Ozai, causing the young airbender to look away with uncertainty.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Southern Raiders
- Main article: Transcript:The Southern Raiders (commentary)
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire
- Katara finally forgives Zuko after the events of The Western Air Temple
- When Sokka is recounting the day his mother died in a flashback, the black snow can be seen. The black snow was previously seen in "The Siege of the North, Part 1" and "The Puppetmaster" and, according to Sokka, warns of the Fire Nation's approach. During this flashback, he says, "Many of the warriors had seen the black snow before and they knew what it meant: a Fire Nation raid."
- This is the first and only time in the series where viewers see Kya's face and hear her voice. In "The Swamp", only her back is depicted.
- Katara's line in regards to Yon Rha, "Now that I know he's out there, now that I know we can find him, I feel like I have no choice," reflects Hama's line in "The Puppetmaster" in regards to bloodbending: "The choice is not yours; the power exists. And it's your duty to use the gifts you've been given to win this war!", as Katara later uses bloodbending on the man she believes is responsible for her mother's death. This is the the first time Katara willingly uses bloodbending as opposed to doing so out of necessity, and the last time she bloodbends in the series.
- This is the first time Zuko says Aang's and Katara's names out loud.
- This is the first time Jet has been mentioned on screen by name since "Lake Laogai".
- Whaletail Island was first mentioned in "Lake Laogai" as a place where Appa could have been taken after being bought on the black market.
- Zuko is the second person to push Katara out of the way of falling rocks, the first being Aang in "The Cave of Two Lovers".
- Aang's line, "Is it your turn to take a little field trip with Zuko?" is a direct reference to the previous three episodes, in which Aang and Sokka both went on individual journeys with Zuko, which inevitably ended with the two bonding.
- This is the first time Aang has a noticeable moral dilemma with killing the Fire Lord.
- This is the third time that the Western Air Temple is attacked by the Fire Nation, the first being when Sozin launched an assault on the air temple one hundred years earlier, and the second when Combustion Man attacked the temple.
- This is the last time Aang is seen fighting Azula in the series.
- Gilak briefly appears standing behind Hakoda during Sokka's flashback. His hair is darker and his beard shorter than when he reappeared during the North and South trilogy which is set around 102 AG, showing how he aged since 94 AG.
- In the beginning of the episode, Sokka's hair is down. However, after a falling Zuko is caught by Katara, Sokka's wolf tail can briefly be seen. It immediately returns to being down.
- On the airship, when Azula and Zuko are fighting, Azula throws a punch to send a fire blast. After the blast, she freezes, not moving at all for several seconds. Soon after, however, another blast comes as if she had thrown another punch.
- When Zuko follows Katara from the campfire, the tent that is behind Toph turns around. The blue half is supposed to be on the back side, but in this frame it is in the front.
- As Katara angrily suggests what Zuko could do to redeem himself, the long grass is evidently being blown toward the left; however, both Zuko and Katara's hair are being blown in the opposite direction.
- After all the others retreat to their tents, there is no sign that a fire had been burning earlier. There should have at least been a burnt spot in the grass.
- When Suki denies going to see Sokka and coolly waves her arms before leaving, her rope belt disappears, although it reappears again shortly after.
- The tent in which Katara sleeps changes colors. In the scene where Team Avatar is sitting around the fire, it is orange/red, but the next morning, it is blue. Afterward, it turns back to orange.
- When Aang is telling Katara to forgive the man who killed her mother, the dark part of the wrap around Sokka's hands goes missing, before reappearing.
- After Zuko tells Katara that her mother was a brave woman, Katara's hair is seen down, even though it was in a ponytail just prior.
- When Zuko tells Katara that her mother was a brave woman, Katara has bags under her eyes. However, when she touches her necklace, the bags are no longer there.
- When Zuko asks Katara if she is ready to face the leader of the Southern Raiders, she pulls down her mask and breaks down a door via waterbending before the scene cuts to commercial. After the commercial, her mask is back on her face, even though no time has passed in the show.
- Yon Rha is shown holding a basket containing more than seven items. However, when its contents are dumped out, only four objects are shown on the ground and an empty basket can be seen.
- Immediately after Yon Rha's flashback sequence, Zuko's entire face is visible; however, when Katara bends the rain, Zuko is seen pulling down his face mask, which was already lowered.
- When Katara sits on the dock, a moment before Appa lands, it shows her hand seemingly without any protector. However, in the next frame, there are protectors on her hands.
- When Aang tells Katara, "Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing," his mouth is not moving.
- When Katara walks up to meet Zuko, her left hand is visibly bare. Yet when she stops momentarily before hugging Zuko, her blue glove suddenly appears.
- This episode was part of an event called "Countdown to the Comet". The new episodes of Avatar began airing on July 14, starting with "The Western Air Temple", followed by "The Firebending Masters", The Boiling Rock parts one and two, "The Southern Raiders", "The Ember Island Players", and finally Sozin's Comet parts one through four.
- The dark coat Katara wears while sneaking into the Southern Raiders' base is an item in the game Legends of the Arena and is named "Long Coat".
- When Katara is seen as a child in flashbacks, her winter coat with the crescent moon closely resembles the winter coat she wore in the Northern Water Tribe while mastering waterbending with Master Pakku.
- This is the only episode where Kya's name is mentioned and Hakoda is the only person to actually say her name out loud.
- In this episode, waterbending is seen performed as influenced by two primary opportune factors, that is the presence of a full moon and rain. In addition, waterbending is also seen under the influence of strong emotion, yet another strong factor that determines the potency of the art's use.
- Aang shows lack of concern when Toph and Haru earthbend a tunnel into an Air Nomad painting and never mentions anything about the destruction of the atrium and fountain. This contrasts his thoughts about the destruction of the air temples in "The Northern Air Temple". However, it should be noted that the mechanist was making changes to the air temple for his own benefit, while Toph and Haru were trying to help escape a Fire Nation attack.
- Gilak appears in the background during Sokka's flashback.
- This is the last time a majority of the main characters encounters Azula during Avatar: The Last Airbender. After this, only Katara, Zuko, and Appa see her until The Search Part One.
- The turbulent weather and moody lighting in this episode represent Katara's emotional state.
- According to the commentary of this episode, the sound used when Sokka sucked the flower into his mouth was a power drill.
- The factors that affect waterbending were briefly explored in the Avatar pre-production bible
- Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, page 159.
- Basco, Dante; DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan & Romano, Andrea (July 29, 2008). "The Southern Raiders" commentary. Book 3: Fire, Volume 4 DVD.